The Burlington Coat Factory, a unit of Bain Capital Partners, is looking straight into the eyeballs of a PR gift horse: the WTC/mosque squabble. Sadly, the chain is blinking, so far.
The Islamic Cultural Center is slated to be built on a site once occupied by a BCF outlet. That Park Place structure, two blocks from Ground Zero, was damaged as parts of a hijacked jet crashed through its roof.
Though BP, Toyota, Goldman Sachs and Hewlett-Packard may not buy the old chestnut about "there is no such thing as bad news/publicity," I believe BCF is missing a golden opportunity to cash in on the mosque flap.
Ed Bernays, the father of PR, even told me once that he’d be happy if a news article was only 51 percent correct. To Bernays, it was more important to get the client's name out there.
Back to BCF. The chain has a long history of supporting causes. It has backed the American Red Cross in Haiti relief, programs of the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society and the “Warm Coats and Warm Hearts” campaign for the needy. It is well positioned to take on both sides of the mosque controversy.
Here’s how. BCF boasts of offering 70 percent off department store prices. How about tacking on another 10 percent discount for anti- and pro-mosque factions?
The anti-mosque people say they will protest for as long as it takes to stop construction and vow to carry on if building goes forward. That means gloves, hats and boots will be needed for wintry New York. With coupons in hand, delighted protestors could trot up Sixth Avenue and present them for deals at the BCF emporium on 21St. Happy shoppers make long-term customers for BCF.
In the event the mosque opens, BCF has activewear that will be handy for the gym portion of the complex, swimwear for the pool and children’s clothes for the lucky kids smart enough to get a seat in the eventual school at the Islamic complex. An eighty percent discount will build a lot of goodwill among people of all religions who use the Islamic complex site.
It’s time to step up BCF. Make that grand announcement before this Saturday’s anniversary of the 9/11 attack. Ride that gift horse for all that it is worth.